Senior Dustin Ledgard sits in front of a polished black piano in the music room at North, a group of Theatre Ink members circled around him as they rehearse for an upcoming show. Ledgard is not only accompanying them on the piano. He is giving them advice on how to improve their vocal performances—a glimpse into the role Ledgard plays in the music and theater community at North.
“Music is a passion that many people at North have, but the way Dustin carries it out is unique,” explained senior Thacher Andreae, a longtime friend of Ledgard who is also active in North’s music and theater scene. Ledgard is currently a member of Family Singers and recently performed a solo in the Joseph Haydn piece Mass in Time of War during a chorus-wide event. He participates in Theatre Ink, acting in and musically directing shows, and composes music outside of school. Although his time in high school is almost over, he has left his mark on the school’s arts programs.
Ledgard’s passion for theater stems from his childhood and early school years. “I don’t really know when I started realizing that what I was doing was theater, but I was in shows all the time,” he said. He credits his middle school years where he performed in productions such as The Little Mermaid with fostering his love of theater. “The eighth graders had to take some leadership roles” in the production, he explained, “so I got to start leading in addition to being in a show.” That experience made him realize his affinity for leading and helping other students, he said.
As he entered high school, Ledgard found a range of interesting activities but continued theater, given its unique nature and opportunities. “There are a lot of things to like about theater, like the show you’re doing, the character you play, or the costumes,” he said. “What I like most is the community it creates centered around the piece of art.”
By musically directing Theatre Ink shows, Ledgard combines his interest in theater and music. He directed his first show, Cabaret Troupe, as a sophomore and came to appreciate a new side of theater. Although he initially saw himself as more of an actor than a musician, Ledgard explained that, “once I started getting into it, I realized this is what I want to be doing because it integrates my two biggest passions: theater and music.”
Andreae characterized Ledgard as especially suitable for this role. “As a music director, he is dedicated and patient,” he said. “I have only been directed by him once, but he brings infinitely positive energy to every process he is a part of.”
Directing, however, has not always been easy, Ledgard added. “I’ve had some confidence issues with being a musical director. It’s a demanding position, and I haven’t always felt that I’m the right person to do it. But, nonetheless, I still love doing it.” Ledgard added that he has grown along the way. “No one really taught me how to musically direct. I had to learn indirectly from the music directors I’d had in the past. In my first show, Cabaret Troupe, I acted more as a piano accompanist, since I didn’t always feel comfortable teaching, but now I’m confident enough to teach practically anything to the cast,” he explained. “The show which most helped me to progress was Assassins, which had very difficult music. That show helped me to grow immensely as both a musician and as a leader.”
Producing shows with limited time has proved similarly stressful, Ledgard noted. Still, he has developed methods of succeeding in spite of these pressures. “At a certain point, it’s more important that you try to calm your nerves than try to cram in more practice,” he said. “Performing is a lot about maintaining a calm mind so that you can do things to your best ability.”
Ledgard encourages students who are considering participating in North’s theater program to try out for shows, even if success seems unattainable. “There’s sometimes a stigma that it’s too competitive and you’re not going to succeed, but don’t listen to that. Go for every opportunity you can.”
After graduating from North, Ledgard plans to continue in the arts, focusing on music composition in college. Although the future holds new and potentially unparalleled experiences for him, Ledgard noted he will not forget what he learned at North. “We really have to appreciate what we have here. I go talk to my friends from other schools, and their theater and music departments are really nowhere near as advanced.”
He added that he is grateful for the unique nature of community as a whole. “I don’t think that’s just a budget thing. I think it also has a lot to do with the attitude,” he explained. “Here at North, we really like to present diversity as well as making what we do serious.”